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Probably the best world war 2 movies (in no particular order)

list of best world war 2 movies

Here follow a list of some of the greatest second world war movies. Each movie on this list have made some impact on the war film genre in some way regardless the era when it was released. 

This best war movies list is based on movies that have good critic reviews, the respect of the fans of the war movies genre, good storyline, great action scenes, great acting and a director that knows his trade. The movies that follow have that in common, are often found on plenty of best war movies lists and have made strong impression on me as well as on millions of people that have watched them.

The second thing about this war movies list is that there aren't any prison camp movies. So I don’t want to hear anything why Empire of the sun, Schindler’s list, The great escape or life is Beautiful are not on this list. There are no wartime love stories as well, so don’t even think about commenting why Casablanca is not there even that many claim it’s a war movie. If you ask me it’s more of a wartime love story and will find its place on another list. Also, don’t complain why Band of brothers and The Pacific are not on this list, they are TV series and they will find their place on a best war TV series list. This list is about the best World War 2 movies and every story in this list is about some military mission or battle during that period. If you are a fan of the period you have probably watched some and if not every movie on the list. Nevertheless, check it out maybe you will come across a surprise or two.

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

These are the true inglorious bastards. Lee Marvin leads a gang of convicts in a one way mission in this Robert Aldrich classic movie. It's almost impossible not to like this gang of misfits. 

The Desert Fox (1951)

Erwin Rommel was one of the greatest German generals, a brilliant officer and strategist highly respected both by his soldiers as well as by his enemies. James Mason did an incredible job portraying Rommel who was also known as the desert fox. 


Where Eagles Dare (1968)

One of the best world war two thrillers with the legendary Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood in the main roles. Non stop high quality action. 

When Trumpets Fade (1998)

This is by far the most underrated war movies of all time. Yet, it deserves to be on everyone's second world war best movies list. All in all an incredible movie, great plot, great acting. This movie is a living proof that you don't need Hollywood movie star to make a great film and by any standards this is one hell of a war movie. 

The Thin Red Line (1998)

An epic movie with an all star crew. Many considered it as one of the greatest word war 2 movies ever made. The focus on the movie is the battle at the Guadalcanal during the world war two. 

Too Late The Hero (1970)

watch too late the hero
Often forgotten and pretty underrated this is a great war movie with Cliff Robertson and Michael Caine in the main roles. Robert Aldrich (the dirty dozen) is signed as the director of this war adventure movie. 

Battle Of The Bulge (1965)

watch battle of the bulge
This is one of the precises story of one of the biggest WWII battles - the battle of the bulge. One of the "must watch" classic world war 2 movies for every fan of the genre.

Kelly's Heroes (1970)

The is story of a group of soldiers that go behind enemy lines to rob a Nazi Bank. Plenty of action and interesting characters. Sgt Oddball (Donald Sutherland) is one of those characters that stick with you for a long time. 

Battle of Britain (1969)

There is no better movie on the Battle of Britain, how it was fought and how it was won. One of the best war movies made in the United Kingdom.

Patton (1970)

George S. Patton is one of the greatest generals that fought in the second world war. He is also known as the General that defeated the desert fox. A lifetime performance by George S. Scott.

watch cross of iron online free
This is a Sam Peckinpah masterpiece with James Coburn in the main role. There isn't a best world war 2 movies list without this one. The critics loved it and the audience was blown away from the authenticity of war portrayed in this classic world war 2 movie. 

The Longest Day (1962)

One of the first movies about the D-Day told on a grand scale with an all-star acting crew lead by Richard Burton and John Wayne.

 Army Of Shadows (1969)

One of the movies in which every element is perfect, from the writing through the editing, perfection all the way. A true masterpiece very often unfairly forgotten by the fans! Wanna know the true value of this movie, just read some critics review or simply watch it.

 Catch 22 (1970)

Captain John Yossarian is a cult character and one of the most memorable ones in the genre. His monologues and discussion are unforgettable. The movie didn't had commercial success only because most of the people can comprehend the black humor in this movie. 

 A Bridge Too Far (1977)

watch a bridge too far online

An epic movie with some of the best actors of those years. Operation Market Garden was the battle that should of ended the world war 2 by Christmas that year. The movie tells the story why that didn't happened.

The Big Red One (1980)

One of the best world wart 2 movies ever made without any doubt. Nothing more to be said, if you haven't seen it just sit back and enjoy. 

Hell Is For Heroes (1962)

watch hell is for heroes online
This very tense world war II drama is directed by Don Siegel (his only war movie) with Steve McQueen in the main role. Great director, great script, great actors equals great film.

Das Boot (1981)

Brilliant, masterpiece, excellent are common terms used to describe Das Boot. This is one of the most realistic war movies ever made. The movie follows the lives of a U-boat crew and their missions in the Atlantic ocean in the mist of the second world war. 

watch letters from iwo jima online
Powerful war movie directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie tells the story about the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective. The movie has all that a great war movies needs; great director, great actors, great story, great battle scenes. 

watch stalingrad 1993
If you haven't seen this movie you better prepare yourself. This is not an easy movie to watch as same as war is not a pleasant experience. This battlefield drama tells a powerful story of the German soldiers that fought in Stalingrad.   

The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)

watch the bridge on the river kwai
No world war II movie list can be made without this classic. An epic movie that tells a powerful story about a working camp of POW. A complex movie that delivers a strong message.

Come And See (Idi i Smotri) (1985)

A rare look of the second world war from the Soviet side. Just because the actors don't speak English the movie didn't made an impact on the Western audience. Otherwise one of the best and if not the best world war 2 movie ever made. 

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

The movie that changed the genre and set new standards. Spielberg's masterpiece is one of the best films in the genre. Probably the best war movie in the last two decades. 

 Honorable mention:
The Attack (1956),
Flags of our fathers (2006),
The Desert Rats (1953),
Midway (1976),
Hell in the Pacific (1968)
The Guns of Navarone (1961)

If you feel some great movie is left out of this list be free to write us about it in the comment box!

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+ comments + 13 comments

June 23, 2013 at 7:14 AM

Excellent list, only a few I would disagree with and no glaring exceptions. Here is my Top Ten:

1. Longest Day
2. Saving Private Ryan
3. Das Boot
4. When Trumpets Fade
5. Where Eagles Dare
6. A Bridge Too Far
7. Bridge on the River Kwai
8. Cross of Iron
9. Patton
10. Battle of Britain

Not a big fan of:
The Thin Red Line
Army of Shadows

You are not a big fan of black and white movies, are you?

June 23, 2013 at 7:37 AM

I understand why you might dislike the thin red line, i truly do, but not why you dislike army of shadows, it is an excellent movie. As far as the black and white movies, it makes no difference to me.
...Hell is for heroes, the desert fox and the longest day are B & W movies. I think they are excellent movies and deserve their place on everyone's greatest world war 2 movie list

June 23, 2013 at 10:13 AM

I was kidding about the black and whites, I prefer more modern movies myself.

I am a bigger fan of "Army of Crime". "Army of Shadows" perplexes me as to why it is considered a masterpiece. It has long stretches of boring and several ridiculous scenes, especially when the main character escapes.

Thanks for the list! As for great WW2 movies, my father served for the entire WW2, and most of it with Patten's 3rd. He loved the movie by the same name, Patton. We saw it together many times. The other movie we saw several times in the movies was Battle of The Bulge.

I always knew he was proud that he served and helped save the world. My Dad never talked much about WW2, I am sure now it's because, while he was proud of his contribution, it was a hard and sad time for him too. But he really loved these movies. Being there with him, I could tell by observing through him what was right, accurate, and what was bunk.

Movies should make you feel something. Those two movies I mentioned did that for my Dad, and me. So to me, they are great movies.

June 29, 2013 at 7:20 AM

I am glad you liked the list. I am sure that your dad would like some of the other movies on this list as well.If your dad liked Patton and Battle of Bulge he should watch the big red one and when trumpets fade. I am certain that he will enjoy them very much as well!

July 19, 2013 at 7:17 AM

You forgot to mention Band Of Brothers and or The Pacific. they're TV series, but there stories couldn't have been told and other way and are definitely worth a mention.

July 19, 2013 at 1:28 PM

Actually I didn't mention BOB and the Pacific because they are made for TV, both are TV series.That's the only reason why they are not mentioned on this list.

February 12, 2014 at 9:24 PM

Battle of the Bulge? That ranks as one of the greatest examples of poor acting in film history. In my view, it stank and stunk simultaneously. Where is Tora Tora Tora? You put that other fartfest movie "Midway" on the honorable mention list, but not "Tora"?
Well, on a positive you included "Hell is for Heroes." Regardless if it was black and white, low-budget, it was excellent. Oh, and what added to its excellence was the addition of Bob Newhart as Pvt. Driscoll.

June 1, 2015 at 1:53 PM

UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN THE LIST BELOW, you cannot properly rate the others. I have seen many of your top ten believe that one has to see these made during WW 2 to help understand the mind set of the people involved. Here are a few of the best of Hollywood or Gr. Britian during the War. I substituted Tora, Tora, Tora for December 7th, the movie as Tora, Tora, Tora is much more accurate in hindsight and tells the story from both the U.S. and Japanese sides.

1. The Mortal Storm (1940) Early Nazi Germany take over. (Before Nazi invasion of Poland)
2. Women at War (1940) British women in France before Germany defeats France
3. Dunkirk (1958) British are driven back and out of Europe.
4. Mrs. Miniver (1942) Home front in England in early years 1939-1940
5. The Pied Piper (1942) Rescue of French children
6. The Great Dictator (1940) How we saw Hitler in America before Pearl Harbor.
7. The Lion Has Wings (1940) After Dunkirk England defends herself.
8. All Through the Night (1941) American light hearted about Nazi spies, etc. H. Bogart
9. Confirm or Deny (1941) When will Germany invade England? - Don Ameche
10 Dangerous Moonlight (1941) Polish pilot now in Great Britain.
11 The 49th Parallel (1941) Nazi crew invasion of Canada.
12 To Be Or Not To Be (1942) finished about 20 days before costar Carole Lombard was killed.
13 Casablanca (1942) Bogart, Bergman, Henried, Greenstreet, North Africa Dec. 1941
14 Behind the Rising Sun (1943) in Japan. Japanese youth becomes cruel killer in army service
15 Tora, Tora, Tora, [Color] (1970) All Star Cast PEARL HARBOR Bombed Why? Who knew what?
16 Bataan (1943) R. Taylor, L. Nolan, Walker, Dezi Arnez Defenders buy time die
17 Cry "Havoc" (1943) almost all women cast, Nurses on Bataan
18 So Proudly We Hail (194 ) C. Colbert, V. Lake, P. Goddard (Army nurses under fire)
19 Destination Tokyo (194 ) Cary Grant, Hale, Hutton, D. Clark, (Submarine in Tokyo Bay 1942)
20 China (1943) war in China in 1941 L. Young; Alan Ladd,(looks like Indiana Jones)
21 The First of the Few (1942) Spitfire developed that won the Battle of Britain
22 Gangway For Tomorrow (1943) 5 Defense Workers in US tell who they are on way to work
23 Desperate Journey (1942) former President Reagan co stars in this typical propaganda movie
24 Action in the North Atlantic (1942) 1st Mate Bogart, Capt. Massey.+ Hale torpedoed twice
Maybe even this love story type war movie (unusual for one made during WW2)
25 Crash Dive (1943) Tyrone Power is Submariner just before he goes in Marines-Color

My parents had relatives serving in WW2 for allies (US + Canada) on both sides of the family. My wife had relatives who were in the German Hitler Youth and in Luftwaffe (German Air Force). Many of these movies are available on YouTube.

March 14, 2016 at 11:50 AM

i think people stopped making good ww2 movies all together. If some of you guys could point out to something new (yet watchable), please do as i crave for a good one.

March 14, 2016 at 11:51 AM

They don't make em like they did anymore...all is left is to watch old ones and enjoy.

August 15, 2016 at 4:54 PM

You have a fine list of WW2 movies, as you stated, in no particular order and people complain, offer their top favorites, rather than comment on the fine movies you listed.
My dad was in the USAAC, flew a B-17g, dropped lots of bombs on the Nazis, ball bearing plants, synthetic oil refineries, rail yards, etc. The flak did the most damage to the crew and the Flying Fortress.

August 15, 2016 at 5:16 PM

My wife and I saw Enemy at the Gates and Anthropoid on opening day, no more then 10 people in the theater. I guess Americans are not interested in others beating the Nazis. We enjoyed both movies.

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